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9780385528955

Gifts of War: A Novel

Ford, Mackenzie

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9780385528955: Gifts of War: A Novel

A vivid tale of romance, adventure, and intrigue, Gifts of War is a remarkable novel that explores what made War World I so tragic and revolutionary.
 
During the Christmas Truce of 1914, Hal Montgomery makes a pact with a German soldier that will change his life—he promises to find his enemy’s English girlfriend, Sam, and let her know her fiancé is alive. But things take an unexpected turn when Hal falls in love with Sam himself. As their romance blossoms, she shares her most private confidence: Her newborn son is of German lineage, information that threatens her reputation and her job as a schoolteacher. Fearful that he will lose Sam, Hal holds tight to the secret that brought them together. But fashioning a family life proves precarious when it is founded on a lie.

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During the Christmas Truce of 1914, Hal Montgomery, a British soldier, is given a photo by a German soldier, Wilhelm Wetzlar, and they make a pact. Hal promises to find his enemy’s English girlfriend, Samantha, and let her know her fiancé is alive and thinking of her. Several weeks later, Hal—now injured—is discharged from the army and goes to Stratford on Avon to fulfill his promise. But things take an unexpected turn when he meets the woman in the photo and falls in love with her himself. As their romance blossoms, Sam shares with Hal her most private confidence: Her newborn son is of German lineage, information that threatens her reputation and her job as a schoolteacher. Fearful that he will lose Sam, Hal holds tight to the secret—and the photograph—that brought them together.

The scene shifts to London, where Hal becomes involved with military intelligence and is introduced to Sam’s sisters and a different kind of secrecy. Against the broader landscape of England in wartime, Gifts of War captures the era and the fates of men and women caught in the sweep of history. A vivid tale of romance, adventure, and intrigue, the novel is a remarkable narrative that explores what made War World I so tragic, so revolutionary, and so exciting. It also announces a gifted new novelist.

Amazon Exclusive: Mackenzie Ford on Gifts of War

I am an only child, but the son of a mother who was one of four sisters, very close. And my father was a twin. I have, therefore, always been interested in how families influence behaviour, but more in how brothers and sisters impact on each other, rather than how parents influence their children. At the same time, I have observed how in the English language, so precise in many ways, we have just the one word—‘love’—to describe a wide range of feelings. We say we love the theatre, or the sun, or our laptops, but those are pale emotions compared to how we fall in love with someone else, and that can’t compare with the love of a parent for a child, or a child for a parent. Why were my mother and her sisters so close, why did they love each other so much, when other brothers and sisters are not close at all, may even be archrivals, as say King Lear’s daughters were?

Gifts of War explores these issues against a background of the First World War, and for three reasons. The danger inherent in war heightens all emotions, and its sheer proximity forces a psychological equality on people that is absent the rest of the time; it helps the story-teller. But second, I have also noticed that, contrary to common sense, or what we take common sense to be, amid the danger—or perhaps because of it—people enjoy wartime conditions, some of them, or at least they say they did, after the event. So Gifts of War is about the good things that can come out of the unusual psychological circumstances of war.

That’s all background of course. A final reason for choosing a wartime setting is that early on in World War One there was a very unusual development: at Christmas-time ordinary soldiers, in defiance of High Command, insisted on a truce, when they laid down their arms, climbed out of the trenches and fraternised with each other, swapping badges and photographs and cigarettes. This unusual occurrence allowed me, as a storyteller, the chance to begin a story of a kind that could occur in no other way, in no other war, in no other time. That, I like to think, is what makes Gifts of War unique.

I particularly enjoyed creating Isobel (Izzy), Hal's sister, a nurse at the Front. I spent months in the company of these characters and I hope you will savour them and their inter-relationships as much as I did. I was reluctant to let them go, but as you will see, there is an inevitability to the ending. --Mackenzie Ford

About the Author:

MACKENZIE FORD is the nom de plume of a well-known and respected historian who lives in London, England.

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